A Bridge Too Far

My in-laws live in Greenville, South Carolina, where the downtown scene has grown much more robust over the five or six years they've lived there. ...
by | June 23, 2006

My in-laws live in Greenville, South Carolina, where the downtown scene has grown much more robust over the five or six years they've lived there. It's the usual mix of still relatively new performing arts centers, a ballpark and heaps of restaurants.

But Greenville stands out in a couple of ways. For one thing, they have the worst team names of any city -- The Grrrowl play hockey, while The Drive are (is?) the baseball team.

More positively, Greenville has built a lovely suspension pedestrian bridge that allows fine viewing of the small falls of the Reedy River. When the in-laws first moved to town, you couldn't even see the river, which was blocked from view by a vehicular bridge.

They tore that down, built the pedestrian bridge and now have a lovely park that has become Greenville's leading tourist attraction, according to Nancy P. Whitworth, the city's economic development director.

I thought that was a fairly unique idea -- until I started coming across stories about lots of new pedestrian bridges. There's the loopy Frank Gehry-designed one at Chicago's Millennium Park, an extra-long one in Chattanooga and debates about building new ones in Omaha, Sheboygan and over Kewalo Harbor in Kaka'ako in, duh, Hawaii. Clearly, some consultants are making money proposing these bridges over any water a city can find.

With so many bridges and so few pedestrians, it's no wonder that Cincinnati is trying to raise the stakes. Cincinnati opened the Purple People Bridge Climb this month. In a twist on the Greenville situation, this was a vehicular bridge that had aged and found itself too narrow to carry contemporary traffic.

But the city decided to keep the thing and add stuff to it to make it an attraction. Now visitors will not just stroll but climb up to the tippy-top of this bridge. "Climbers will pay $59.50 for the right to walk from end to end on a walkway atop the bridge," reports the Associated Press, "that features breathtaking views of the river and both states."

Is it worth it? "At the peak, they can ring a bell to signal their conquest," says AP.

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